Lebanon Daily News Brief 7/23/2021

DAILY NEWS


Lebanon to Stop Fuel Deliveries
Reports say that Lebanon’s Ministry of Energy and Water will stop delivering diesel amid the fuel crisis because its supplies have run dry except for limited emergency quantities. [Middle East Monitor] Iraq is expected to deliver one million tons of fuel to Lebanon to resume power plant operations after an agreement is signed this weekend. [The Daily Star]

UN Lebanon Envoy Speaks With UN Security Council
UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka met with the UN Security Council yesterday to discuss the implementation of Resolution 1701 with the aim of enhancing Lebanon’s security and sovereignty. Wronecka reiterated the need for a “fully empowered government” in Lebanon that can work toward reforms and she praised the efforts of the Lebanese Armed Forces to maintain the country’s stability. [Arab News]

Former PM Najib Mikati Favored to Form a Government
Sources say that former Prime Minister Najib Mikati is the “most favorite candidate” to be named the new prime minister-designate. Parliamentary consultations will take place on Monday to officially name the next prime minister-designate who will attempt to form a cabinet after former Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s resignation. [Daily Star]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


SDRs: For The People Or For The Government
Jean AbiNader

AbiNader writes, “While it is attractive to use the SDRs to alleviate the humanitarian needs of the Lebanese, it does not excuse the caretaker government or parliament from taking responsibility for economic reforms. This appears to be a calculated move by politicians to gain traction in the upcoming elections by rewarding their constituents with cash cards purchased at the cost of the country’s longer term economic stability and financial integrity. They are literally holding the cards at this point and the Lebanese people will only really win by changing the game in the spring elections.”

Read more here

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 05/26/21

May 26, 2021

DAILY NEWS


Deputy UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Briefing
Yesterday Najat Rochdi, Deputy UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, briefed the UN Security Council’s Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security on Lebanon’s state of crisis and the effect it is having on women. She urged that in order for recovery efforts in Lebanon to be sustainable, they must be inclusive of women. Rochdi further recognized the prominent role of women both in protests and political movements, and local peacebuilding and mediation efforts. [Naharnet]

S&P Global Report Says Bail-In for Depositors Likely
In a new report S&P Global said there is likely to be a “bail-in” for Lebanese bank depositors in order for the banking sector to absorb the costs of financial restructuring. This might look like paying depositors below-market exchange rates or converting their deposits into equity, the report said. [Al Arabiya] On Monday central bank governor Riad Salameh said depositors’ money was safe and announced a plan that would release $50,000 per deposited in June. [Reuters]

Nasrallah Comments on Aggression in Jerusalem
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah gave a televised speech yesterday, his first since a ceasefire was called between Israel and Hamas last week. He commented on hostilities in Jerusalem and said that any aggression on Jerusalem’s holy sites would mean regional war. [Reuters]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Bring the Planners Back! Displacement-Triggered Patterns of Urbanization and City Responses
Mona Fawaz, Mona Harb, Carla Al-Hage
The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 05/25/21

DAILY NEWS


Salameh Discusses New Dollar Withdrawal Plan
In an interview with Al Hadath yesterday, central bank governor Riad Salameh discussed a new plan that will allow depositors to finally access their US dollars in Lebanese banks. Starting in June, depositors will be able to withdraw $50,000 which means $25,000 in US dollar bills and the other $25,000 in Lebanese pounds at the market exchange rate. [Al Arabiya]

UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon Running Out of Funds
Amid Lebanon’s economic crises, the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon has run out of funding. The tribunal that was set up to prosecute perpetrators of PM Rafik Hariri’s assassination in 2005 is in financial trouble which puts future trials at risk. [Reuters]

Political Talks Resume Upon Hariri’s Return to Beirut
Talks have resumed between political leaders regarding the formation of a government upon Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s return to Beirut. Sources say Hariri and Free Patriotic Movement officials showed “flexibility” after a conversation with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. [Naharnet] In a statement from the UN office in Beirut, Deputy UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Najat Rochdi urged the formation of a government that is “competent, empowered, and representative of its people.” [The Daily Star]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Standing Up For Lebanon – Recent US Words and Actions
Jean AbiNader

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

This Week In Lebanon: 5/23/2021

May 23, 2021
US Congress Members Urge Support for Lebanon
International Support Group for Lebanon Meeting in Beirut
Syrian Voters Attacked on Their Way to Beirut

US Congress Members Urge Support for Lebanon
Members of Congress signed a letter to Secretary of State Blinken this week urging the United States to respond to Lebanon’s deteriorating situation. They recommended coordinated aid to the country, support for the Lebanese Armed Forces, and for an independent investigation into last summer’s explosion at the Port of Beirut. [Al-Monitor]

ANALYSIS

“Chairman Meeks and the congressional co-signers reaffirm Lebanon’s importance on the agenda of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. They understand the multi-dimensional aspects of a strong US policy: firm international diplomacy advocating a government capable of addressing the needs of the Lebanese citizens, international aid for those who suffer from the effects of incompetent governance, and steadfast support for the Lebanese Armed Forces, which is dedicated to the protecting the rights of its citizens. This letter and a companion letter sent by the House US-Lebanon Friendship Caucus keep the Lebanon issue front and center with the Biden administration and offer a roadmap for stabilizing its US interests in the eastern Mediterranean and for curbing the influence of Iran.”
-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel


International Support Group for Lebanon Meeting in Beirut
The International Support Group for Lebanon (ISG) met in Beirut on Wednesday to assess Lebanon’s situation. The group took note of further economic and social decline in the country and called on political leaders to form a government. ISG also called for elections to occur on time and for impacts from any subsidy changes on economic and social well-being to be mitigated. [Naharnet]

ANALYSIS

“Once again the ISG has spoken out in support of the people of Lebanon, calling on the political leadership to undertake the reforms critical to the country’s survival, holding the elections on time, and maintaining humanitarian support for the populace. Is there any responsible world leader or organization that is not calling on the leadership to reform or step aside? It is exhausting to hear time and time again the need for transformation only to watch the oligarchy continue to ignore reality.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader


Syrian Voters Attacked on Their Way to Beirut
On Thursday Lebanese mobs attacked Syrian refugees and expatriates on their way to cast their vote at for the Syrian presidential election at the Syrian embassy in Beirut. The groups attacked were said to be organized to vote for President Bashar Assad and were identified by those chanting slogans in support of Assad and carrying banners with the president’s picture. [Arab News]

ANALYSIS

“The pent-up frustration of the Lebanese is being directed toward Syrians in Lebanon who are voting in the Syrian presidential elections at their embassy in Beirut. This has drawn the ire of opposition leaders and common people who can’t rectify why someone claiming refugee status would vote for Assad whose policies created the exodus from Syria in the first place. While the US and other countries are calling the election a sham, it is puzzling to understand the disconnect between those living on relief provided by the international community, and some who are supporting the regime that made them refugees in the first place.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 05/03/21

May 3, 2021

Daily News


Two Brothers Suspected in Smuggling Attempt Arrested
After Saudi Arabia cited drug trafficking problems as reasoning for its recent produce ban on Lebanon, Lebanon’s interior minister has stepped up efforts to address the issue. Yesterday Lebanese authorities arrested two brothers who are suspects of the incident that led to Saudi’s ban in the first place. They had allegedly tried to smuggle over 5 million pills of amphetamine Captagon in pomegranate shipments to Saudi Arabia. [Al Arabiya]

NGO Submits Legal Complaint Against BDL Governor
Riad Salameh has been accused of suspicious real estate purchases in France by an NGO called Sherpa, who has submitted a legal complaint. The complaint details Salameh’s foreign investments including real estate property in the millions. Salameh said that he declared these properties in France before becoming central bank governor in 1993. [France 24]

Maritime Border Talks Set to Resume Tomorrow
A mediation team led by US Ambassador John Desrocher is arriving in Beirut today in preparation for maritime border talks between Lebanon and Israel that are set to resume on Tuesday. Maritime negotiations began last October but stalled shortly after. Ambassador Desrocher and his team will continue mediation efforts at UNIFIL’s headquarters is Lebanon’s southern city Naqoura. [Reuters]

Opinion & Analysis


European University Institute
Breaking the Cycle: A New American Approach to Lebanon
Nicholas Noe

Noe writes, “A new US-led approach to the country is therefore urgent, if only from the limited perspective of peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean and Levant. Any such re-orientation, however, must first be linked to a marshalling of allies, competitors and enemies for a regional dialogue focused on Iran and Saudi Arabia and an immediate de-escalation or freezing of relebant conflicts, especially between Hezbollah and Israel. With such a vital ‘breathing space,’ a multilateral Lebanon-specific reform policy could then be credibly launched to invest in effective democratic instituion-building, a new socio-political compact in line with the Taif Accord that ended the last civil war and a national defense strategy capable of delivering security for all Lebanese citizens.”

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JINSA National Security Digest Podcast
A Failing State: What’s Next For Lebanon?

What role do the Lebanese Armed Forces play in enabling Hezbollah’s control? Are the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon effective at cabining Hezbollah in southern Lebanon? These questions and more are discussed in this podcast episode with IDF MG (ret.) Yaacov Ayish, JINSA Senior Vice President for Israeli Affairs and former head of IDF Operations, and Tony Badran, Research Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Listen here


Diplomatic Courier
Lebanon’s Disabled Community is Dying
Adam Nasser

Nasser writes, “Lebanon’s economic problems, due to decades of mismanagement and corruption, have disproportionately impacted its disabled population. Inflation has driven the value of the Lebanese pound to over 10,000 to the USD, resulting in massive unemployment among disabled people. Today, more than 80 percent of Lebanese with a disability are unemployed, including a large portion of Lebanese youth. Therefore, as the rising cost of living increases, so does the daily burden of the disabled community. To counteract this issue, international donors and NGOs have contributed funds, medical equipment, and educational services…These efforts, as well as assistance that NGOs provide to disabled people, are honorable and necessary. However, they are only a temporary response to a much deeper crisis. Those who receive support from NGO aid programs only cope with living in poverty – they do not escape it. Ultimately, the underlying issue remains unaddressed. Lebanon possesses laws designed to secure the rights of individuals with disabilities that should make up for the difference. This includes the Law on the Rights of Disabled Persons (Law 220/2000), passed by Lebanese legislators in 2000 and designed to safeguard the welfare of disabled citizens. However, the government has not implemented these laws in practice.”

Read more here


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

This Week In Lebanon: 4/25/2021

April 25, 2021
Maronite Patriarch Calls for International Conference
New Plan to Rebuild the Port of Beirut
UK Signs MOU with Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces

Maronite Patriarch Calls for International Conference
In an interview with CNBC, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi emphasized his call for an international conference in addition to asking the Security Council for resolutions on arms and militias in Lebanon. The request for a UN-sponsored conference is actively denounced by Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah. The patriarch further requested a meeting with Hezbollah to discuss Lebanon’s neutrality. [CNBC]

ANALYSIS

“In recent meetings with political leaders in Lebanon, the Maronite Catholic Patriarch stated that “The issue of Lebanon’s sovereignty over its full territory, put forward at the UN in previous resolutions, should be addressed on a multilateral level.” He called for an international conference and challenged Hezbollah to embrace the concept of neutrality, a worthwhile idea which echoes the dissociation policy of former PM Najib Mikati. An international conference, while a solid idea, should be preceded by the US, France, and other countries, including Russia, the Gulf, and Iran, working in collaboration to formulate a workable plan that has multi-stakeholder buy-in. An international conference would then have a better chance of producing a successful outcome.”
-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel


New Plan to Rebuild the Port of Beirut
On Tuesday Lebanese contractors proposed a plan to redevelop the Port of Beirut in a project titled, “Amatouri – Helou for the Reconstruction of the Port of Beirut.” It is meant to be a three-year plan that would not cost the state any expense, but be funded by the Port’s income. [The 961]

ANALYSIS

“Love it. A home-grown solution to rebuild Beirut Port. If this can be done in a transparent and open process, it can set the standard for how the government does business and how public-private partnerships can lead to the revitalization of the capital. There is plenty of talent in Lebanon, with the right environmental and human-centered development values to make this work. Hope a strategy to make this a reality as a reform-based business showcase happens.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader


UK Signs MOU with Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces
On Thursday the British Embassy in Lebanon announced the signing of an MOU with Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF) which confirmed the UK’s support for the forces including continued cooperation through the British Policing Support Program worth 18.5 million euros. [Naharnet]

ANALYSIS

“Although the UK has cut its overall assistance to Lebanon, the government will maintain its special relationship with the ISF and its training efforts to build ‘a modern, transparent and accountable police force.’ Given the increasing pressure on human rights and disproportionate responses to protestors by some security services this is welcome news. Lebanon can ill-afford to punish those who demonstrate for reforms while coddling those who have created this mess in the first place.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

This week In Lebanon: 4/15/2021

April 15, 2021
Undersecretary David Hale Visits Lebanon
BDL Urges Lebanon’s Government to Curb Subsidies
Foreign Firms Interested in Beirut Port Reconstruction

Undersecretary David Hale Visits Lebanon
This week, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale visited Lebanon. He called on Lebanese political leaders to show flexibility and form a government capable of implementing reform. He warned that politicians who block reforms could face punitive actions from the United States. He further added that the US is ready to facilitate maritime border talks between Lebanon and Israel. [Associated Press]

ANALYSIS

“The reason for Undersecretary David Hale’s visit, supported by the new Biden Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, was two-fold: to encourage the leadership of Lebanon to form a government willing to enact necessary reforms that respond to the needs of the Lebanese people; and to encourage a restart of the maritime border negotiations. I’m sure his refrain to the Lebanese politicians was, “Help me, so I can help you.” I’m not sure however what their answer was. The US is ready to help but it needs a partner willing to address the needs of its citizens and work for regional stability. We hope Undersecretary Hale found a partner finally ready to move forward.”
-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel


BDL Urges Lebanon’s Government to Curb Subsidies
This week the Banque Du Liban urged Lebanon’s caretaker government to cut subsidies in order to protect foreign currency reserves. The bank announced it had been forced to sell dollars to prevent inflation over recent months. [Reuters]

ANALYSIS

“It’s not enough that the Lebanese people are down; they are being kicked to the curb by the leadership. Not content with disabling the banking system through a Ponzi-like scheme they profited from, the Central Bank wants to end subsidies – the only protection against hunger and humiliation left for the Lebanese. It’s long past time to reform the system, target its impact to those who are needy, and ensure transparency and effectiveness. But why wait until the last moment when this has been obvious since October 17, 2019? The Central Bank is no savior of the people, far from it.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader


Foreign Firms Interested in Beirut Port Reconstruction
Several foreign firms are interested in rebuilding the Beirut Port left devastated by the August 4th explosion. German, French, Chinese and Russian firms have expressed interest. [Naharnet] This week Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri spoke with President Vladimir Putin on the phone regarding a number of joint cooperation issues including economic and trade relations. [Naharnet]

ANALYSIS

“With the Europeans insisting on transparency and reforms before committing to a plan, Saad Hariri is in Russia whipping up interest in the project. To ensure an honest project that benefits the Lebanese people and doesn’t disfigure the blast area, reforms to bidding and contracting regulations, judicial oversight, government concessions, and many more issues must be settled and enacted into enforceable laws. Clean up the debris, make the area safe and secure, and have a plan that respects the environment, the residents, and the needs of the country – not the few who want to feed at the trough.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 02/22/23

DAILY NEWS


Bassil Blasts Hariri, Calls For Raising Cabinet Members
The Daily Star

Oil Spill Off Israel Reaches South Lebanese Beaches
Reuters

LF to Hand UN Petition Demanding International Probe in Port Blast
Naharnet

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Being Lost and Not Found in Beirut
Jean AbiNader

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

This Week in Lebanon

NOVEMBER 22, 2020
Delay in Government Formation
Independents’ Success in Student Council Elections
UN Special Coordinator’s Response to Government Delay

 

Continued Delay in Government Formation
President Michel Aoun met with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri last week to discuss Lebanon’s government formation. It was reported that the meeting ended negatively when President Aoun insisted on naming Christian ministers. A former Lebanese PM said that this delay furthers Hezbollah’s wishes to push further government consultations to early next year, after US President-Elect Joe Biden is inaugurated. (Naharnet)

ANALYSIS

“Hezbollah’s gamble to wait for a Biden administration before assenting to a new government is dangerous and will drive the Lebanese into more poverty, emigration, and joblessness. Lebanon’s economy has days, not weeks, to form an independent government in order to receive necessary international support and avoid economic collapse. A Biden administration has made it clear that any new agreement with Iran will include curbs on “terrorist proxies.” So I’m not sure why Hezbollah waits! If an independent, reform minded government is delayed, a Biden administration in its first week should signal its agreement with France to reprogram some CEDRE and international aid to direct aid to civil society to support universities, election reform, and social safety net programs.”
-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel


Independents Make an Impression in Student Council Elections
Lebanese American University’s student council seats are usually dominated by the right-wing political party Lebanese Force, but this year, independent students won all the student council seats they ran in: 14 out of 30 seats total. The American University of Beirut also saw strong results for independents at 80 out of 101 seats, and Rafik Hariri University’s independents took four out of nine seats. (Al Jazeera)

ANALYSIS

“Finding a bright spot in the Lebanese landscape is almost impossible these days but, once again, young people are leading the way. There has been a great deal of concern that the October 17 demonstrators are unable to organize, agree on a central platform, and create a coherent strategy for mobilizing the street. Well, recent university student elections were dominated by the independents. This is a small but reassuring sign that the youth still want to have a say in their future and are working on coalescing around a proactive message to challenge the old guard.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader


UN Special Coordinator on Government Delay
UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis participated in an interview with France 24 during which he bemoaned the delay in Lebanon’s government formation. He stressed that he wants to see a government formed in days, not weeks and that the lack of accountability in the government only furthers the public’s mistrust. (France 24)

ANALYSIS

“It seems that progress is imperceptible in forming a new government. The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, emphasizing the severity of the situation, wants to see results in days not weeks. Data tells the story as poverty and unemployment increase; the coronavirus is rising to dangerous levels; the value of the lira is headed toward 8,500 to the dollar; and some 2,000 medical personnel have left the country. Kubis warned that if the political vacuum continues, Lebanon could face a ‘humanitarian catastrophe and even a collapse.’ Not much to add…the signs are clear.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 11/5/20

DAILY NEWS


Lebanon Gets More Time to Meet Audit Demand by Creditors
France 24

Syrian Refugee Sets Himself Ablaze Outside UN Offices in Beirut
Naharnet

Syria’s Assad Says Billions Locked in Troubled Lebanese Banks Behind Economic Crisis
Suleiman Al-Khalidi
Reuters

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Contentious Path for Lebanon’s Forensic Audit
Jean AbiNader

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.